Say what you will, but China is still eyeing Taiwan. Like a hungry tiger just sitting and watching his prey, waiting for the right time to pounce.www.iht.com/articles/2007/10/09/news/china.php
|China promotes military officers experienced in Taiwan affairs |
By David Lague
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
BEIJING: China has promoted senior military officers with experience in planning for war over Taiwan ahead of a key political meeting next week at which the Communist Party has said it will adopt a new strategy to stop the self-governing island moving toward independence.
In a move that was quietly handled even by the standards of China's secretive military, Beijing last month elevated General Chen Bingde of the army to chief of the general staff, a post where he will exercise day-to-day operational command of the country's 2.3 million-strong armed forces.
As Chen was promoted through the senior ranks in the 1980s and 1990s, he held a series of command posts in the Nanjing Military Region opposite Taiwan, where China has concentrated its preparations for any conflict over the island, according to official biographies and military analysts.
Chen's previous post was director general of the general armaments department, where he led the rapid modernization of Chinese military hardware and the country's high profile space program.
General Xu Qiliang, a veteran air force pilot who served in a number of operational and staff posts in the Nanjing military region, was appointed head of the air force last month, state media reported.
And state media reported last month that another senior air force officer with command experience in the Nanjing region, General Ma Xiaotian, had been promoted to deputy chief of the general staff.
In the earlier stages of a wider reshuffle of top posts through China's seven military regions, Admiral Wu Shengli was appointed last year to head the navy.
Wu has also held key appointments that give him a solid grounding in naval operations in the Taiwan Strait.
Experts say these appointments are not designed specifically to threaten Taiwan but are part of China's overall military development where a top priority is enforcing the mainland's claim of sovereignty over the island if necessary.
"It sends a message more broadly that Beijing is enhancing its military capability to deal with Taiwan in any future conflict," said Andrew Yang, secretary general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a Taipei-based security policy institute. "There is more emphasis on the quality of the commanders."
The proportion of officers holding key command positions with first-hand experience in planning for a conflict over Taiwan has been increasing in recent years, experts say.
The promotion of senior officers with exposure to planning over Taiwan comes as President Hu Jintao consolidates his power over the military before the 17th party congress scheduled to open in Beijing on Oct. 15.
Hu, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, the top military decision-making body, has overseen recent military promotions and is quite likely to support further sharp increases in defense spending, analysts say.
Some experts on the Chinese military were puzzled over the manner in which Chen's promotion was first reported.
In a short item carried in the official military newspaper and other state media Sept. 21, Chen was described as the People's Liberation Army's chief of the general staff in a report about a meeting he held with the head of Uganda's armed forces.
There has been no official announcement of his promotion to replace General Liang Guanglie. Some Hong Kong newspapers have reported that Liang, who once served as commander of the Nanjing military region, will become defense minister.
Party congresses, held about every five years, usually dwell on domestic political issues and internal party business, including the complex maneuvering over selecting the next generation of leaders.
But, at a time of rising tension over Taiwan, senior Chinese government and party officials have said that delegates to this congress would fashion a new policy to deal with the island that Beijing considers part of its territory.
The president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, has angered the mainland with his plan to hold a referendum on whether the island should rejoin the United Nations under the name of Taiwan rather than its official title, the Republic of China.
Beijing regards this move as a step toward independence and has issued a number of strongly worded warnings to Taiwan.
The United States, Taiwan's closest political and military ally, has also criticized the referendum move as needlessly provocative.
So far, Chen and his governing Democratic Progressive Party appear determined to press ahead with the referendum to be held alongside the island's presidential election in March.
Most security analysts say China would be reluctant to take any action against Taiwan that could mar preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, an event that the leadership hopes will symbolize China's emergence as an important world power.
But, they say, the mainland leadership would be unlikely to allow Taiwan to make any move that would undermine China's aim of regaining control over the island.
A top adviser to the Chinese government on Taiwan issues warned that the referendum plan was the most serious threat to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the official Xinhua news agency reported Oct. 3.
"The question of Taiwan involves China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Yu Keli, a Taiwan expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, according to the Xinhua report.
"This is one of China's core interests, and there is no room for compromise on this matter of principle."
Protego quod vallo.
Si vis pacem, para bellum.